There is often debate about what exactly the First Amendment means, however, in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson made clear that the purpose of the First Amendment was to establish a “wall of separation” between Church and State in order to protect individuals’ right of conscience:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.”

From an article in Food Safety News

Dickie BellDelegate Richard P. “Dickie” Bell (R-Staunton) is the “chief patron,” or sponsor, of House Bill 207 that local media suggest is probably aimed at how evolution is taught in Virginia. But the language of HB 207 is so broad that just about any controversial topic involving science would fall under its restrictions.

According to a report by the National Center for Science Education, the bill forbids “any public elementary or secondary school teacher from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in science class.”

HB 207 is directed at the Virginia State Board of Education and local school boards, which are also directed to “create an environment in public elementary and secondary schools that encourage students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific controversies in science classes.”

Education boards are directed to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present scientific controversies in science class.” It also contains a clause against religious discrimination.

The National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution and climate change, labeled HB 207 as an “anti-science bill.”

“For those who want to learn more, see the Wikipedia entry about the Discovery Institute’s ‘Teach the Controversy‘ campaign to have creationism taught in schools…   Dover, Delaware was ordered by the court to pay over $1,000,000 after they ‘taught the controversy,’ for their naked attempt to insert religion into public schools. How much will the whole of Virginia have to pay, if this bill becomes law?”  -Waldo Jaquith

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